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Date of Issue: July 28, 2010

WMFR budget raises fees

Property owners in the West Manatee Fire Rescue district can expect to see an increase in fees for service on their tax bills this year. For the 11th consecutive year since the WMFR was formed in 2000, the annual assessment for fire services is going up.

WMFR Chief Andy Price told district commissioners at their recent meeting that the minimum annual assessment for fire services is increasing by about 4 percent in the 2010-11 budget. The raise will bring in an additional $251,000 in revenue, he said.

More money is needed because the district lost $1.3 billion in property values the past year that resulted in a corresponding drop in the number of properties that pay a fire assessment.

According to the chief’s budget, the annual fire assessment fee for a residence starts at $159.22 — up $6 from last year — plus 9.4 cents per square foot for every square foot over 1,000. The minimum business assessment is $375.22, a jump of $15 from last year’s rate.

 Businesses with more than 1,000 square feet have the same assessment as residences, Price said.

A 4 percent increase is less than the maximum 6.9 percent allowed by Florida law, he said.

The 2010-11 budget was presented at $5.29 million, only a slight increase from last year $5.203 million, Price said.

The budget has $4.7 million scheduled for salaries and benefits, or 88.9 percent of the total budget. Staff did not get a cost-of-living-allowance increase in pay because the cost of living did not go up in 2009, Price said.

However, Price said he has been advised that the district can expect a double-digit increase in health insurance rates in the coming fiscal year, and that increase is figured into the budget.